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California Mandates COVID-19 Vaccines for All School Staff

The Golden State is the first in the nation to require its teachers, bus drivers and other school employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

The California Department of Public Health on Wednesday ordered all public and private elementary and secondary school workers to be vaccinated and provide proof, to curb the nation’s fastest increase in positive cases.

The order goes into effect on Thursday.

To blame is the Delta variant, which is twice as contagious as the original novel coronavirus, said Dr. Tomas Aragon, the director and state public health officer for the California Department of Health. He noted that 22.7 new cases per 100,000 people are recorded each day, a tenfold increase since June and the largest since the pandemic began.

Aragon said 63 percent of Californians 12 years of age and older are fully vaccinated, with an additional 10 percent partially vaccinated. Additionally, he stated that less than 41 percent of students 12 to 17 years old are currently vaccinated.

“Unvaccinated persons are more likely to get infected and spread the virus, which is transmitted through the air. Most current hospitalizations and deaths are among unvaccinated adults,” he noted in the order.

The order impacts school staff including school bus drivers and other transportation employees who serve students in transitional kindergarten through 12th grade. The order does not apply to childcare facilities or to home schools. Employees must provide proof of vaccination and schools must have a plan in place for tracking verified worker vaccination status.

Unvaccinated and incompletely vaccinated staff must undergo diagnostic screening testing at least once a week. Schools must track the test results, conduct workplace contact tracing, and report results to local public health departments.

Related: School Districts Challenged to Offer COVID-19 Vaccines to All Staff
Related: Second-Largest District in Nation Says Vaccines Needed to Safely Reopen Schools
Related: CDC Says Schools Can Reopen with Safety Mitigations, Vaccines Not Necessary

Schools may use Elementary and Secondary Emergency Relief Fund I, II, and III to pay for employee vaccination verification and COVID-19 diagnostic screening. Other available funds include the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund I and II, and In-Person Instruction Grants available through AB 86.

California already requires vaccine verification for state workers and health care workers as well as universal masking in all K-12 settings.

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